A Blast From the Past: Getting Bye

via ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com

The Bye Week for the Steelers in 2011 was rather late, as it didn’t arrive until Week 11. As Hombre de Acero wrote on that long-ago day in mid-November:

The Steelers bye week has arrived at long last. 7-3 is a good place to be at the bye (although it would be better if two of those losses were not to the Ravens.)

His questions that week were about how people felt about Jason Worlids after an extended look, whether Hines Ward’s career stats should be taken in consideration in game-planning, and special teams angst, a popular and recurring theme. But this is the question which caught my eye, and is actually very funny in retrospect:

Neal Coolong suggested that the Steelers were developing an unhealthy relationship with Antonio Brown. Do you fear that Roethlisberger might start leaning too heavily on Brown because of his phenomenal pass catching ability?

Based on this past season, I would say the unhealthy relationship went the other direction—that AB leans too heavily on Ben Roethlisberger because of his spectacular pass-throwing ability. At least that would seem to be the lesson to be learned when we look at his stats from the Ben-led vs. Ben-less games:

  • @ NE:  11 targets, 9 receptions, 133 yards (Ben)
  • vs. SF: 11  targets, 9 receptions, 195 yards (Ben)
  •  vs. BAL: 9 targets, 5 receptions, 42 yards (Michael Vick)
  • @ SD: 6  targets, 3 receptions, 42 yards (Michael Vick)
  • vs. ARI: 8 targets, 3 receptions, 24 yards (Landry Jones)
  • vs. OAK: 23 targets, 17 receptions, 284 yards (!) (Ben)

Obviously I cherry-picked the stats. But the only teams to hold AB to under 100 yards with Ben at quarterback were (naturally) Cincinnati (although Ben wasn’t even supposed to play in the first game, as he was theoretically not quite back from his injury), Seattle (where the refs apparently decided that Richard Sherman is so awesome that even when he was doing things to AB that are still illegal in some states he shouldn’t be flagged,) and the final Ravens game, in which it appeared no Steelers were prepared to play. Well, except DeAngelo Williams, who rushed for 100 yards and had 6 receptions for 53 yards, almost as many as AB (7 receptions, 61 yards.)

In the comments Hombre admitted “I wasn’t 100% sure about what Neal was saying, so I thought I would just sort of throw this out there.”

I’ll get to some of those 2011 comments in a moment. But this post was particularly notable for the bonus question, which has become a classic. Here’s the original:

Burning Bye Week Bonus Question:

6. In the spring of 2000 a friend whom I’d met through at the legendary Baltimore Steelers bar the Purple Goose Saloon announced that he was planning a trip to Paris later that fall. (I correctly suspected that he was planning to pop the question to the adorable young lady next to him.) When he told me [he was] planning to go to Paris in the fall, I looked him straight in the eye and said, “So, are you gonna go during the bye week?”

Tell the truth now, have you ever intentionally planned a major family or personal life event around the Steelers bye week?

The other classic part is this answer, by FrankWht, who won the prize with the following. It has, so far as I know, never been topped:

6) Waited for a bye week to kick my girlfriend out once. Sundays were the only day we were both home for extended periods., and I didn’t want to deal with during a game. I know, i know..I’m horrible, but that was a long time coming. She was a very stressful person to be around at that time. I also needed another check to [buy] a new Tv, we used hers when mine broke.

And with that, we return to Antonio Brown:

MiamiSteelersFan said:

Just wait…after bye week, Manny will be back, and things will spread out again. Also, with Cotchery getting another 2 weeks to get comfortable, he’ll take more targets as well.

There was a funny dynamic at that time on BTSC. It seemed as if there was one bone and two dogs for many of the fans, who were either in the pro-Brown or pro-Sanders camp. One commenter in particular was constantly posted various advanced metrics which showed Sanders was a superior receiver.

And he has certainly done just fine for himself in Denver. His stats might be better if a less washed-up quarterback than Peyton Manning or a more experienced one than Brock Osweiler had been throwing to him. It’s pretty difficult to say the Steelers didn’t make the correct decision as to which one to pay, however.

John Kang made an interesting observation:

Antonio Brown might be developing an unhealthy ego, but that’s another story. I trust Big Ben’s ability to spread the ball around. Once teams start compensating for #84, then Ben will start targeting Wallace more.

To be fair to AB, I think, given how successful he’s been and how lowly his original draft position, he’s done pretty well with the ego thing.

Billy52 said:

Spreading the ball around is essential so that opponents don’t key on specific guys. Brown will get better opportunities if Ben doesn’t always look first to him.

seton hall and steelers had a different take:

Ben knows what he is doing and will throw to whoever is open. It just so happens that it has been AB the past 4 weeks.

Little did we know Brown would learn how to always be open. Perhaps he learned from the aging Hines Ward, who was once labeled something to the effect of “the slowest receiver who is always open.” At any rate, as we saw this past season, there are a couple of ways to keep Brown in check—you can double-cover him, (and even that doesn’t always work) or you can wrap yourself around him and hope the refs don’t mind. Otherwise, he’s going to burn you.

Simonsen said:

I love the fact that Ben has developed trust with such a young receiver and let’s face it, Brown has done nothing to disappoint that trust. As long as he doesn’t, why change it? Wallace dropped a key third down reception Sunday, Brown hasn’t done that. Stay with what works, and Ben is not the kind of QB to overly rely on one receiver anyways.

Ivan Cole nailed it as usual:

Brown has earned the attention that he is receiving. Quiet as it’s kept, he may very well be the best of the bunch. He’s nowhere near peaking yet. But I remember at training camp he was just head and shoulders above everyone. If you think about what is possible with this group considering the three tight ends and the wideouts it is incredible. Battle, whom I think is not a bad receiver, can’t even get to be part of the discussion at this point. If this group continues to improve over the remainder of the season and if by chance we could have a rematch with the Packers it could be an incredible shoot out.

Jerry Lynch also foresaw this:

If Brown is open consistently it would be poor play to ignore him. He may very well become a fast Hines Ward in the not so distant future.

But barnburner wasn’t so sure:

Yes – Ben has a propensity to get greedy (it’s what is at the root of him holding onto the ball too long). If he starts taking it for granted that Brown can make an amazing catch to come down with the ball, he could start trying to force throws into windows that just are not there.

It would sure be interesting to be able to go back and watch Antonio in those early games with the clarity of hindsight. Oh, wait, I can do that. If only I had the time…

If you’ve got a little time, feel free to comment. Most of you have probably shared any bye-week stories already. But feel free to give the exact day and date you just KNEW Antonio Brown was going to be the best receiver in the NFL by 2015. Documentation not required—that would take all the fun out of it…

4 comments

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    I knew AB was the best receiver in the NFL in 2015. Before that I really hadn’t realized how good he was. I was surprised when the Steelers gave him the big contract after Wallace reported spurned because I merely thought he was a decent receiver and a real good punt returner. As time went by I started to realize that he was better than decent but I never fully appreciated his abilities until last season.

    Like

    • The level of chemistry between Brown and Roethlisberger is pretty surreal. Brown knows to keep working because, as long he’s upright, Big Ben will be looking for the open guy. Big Ben knows that his receivers will always be working and so he’ll extend the play to give them a shot. It is synergy.

      Like

  • Man..I always hate when someone says that Ben is ‘greedy’ for holding on to the ball. The man gets paid a lot of money to make plays. Sacks will happen, INTs will happen…but more often than not, so does a whole lot of awesome football.

    Liked by 1 person

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